Things That Made Life Better This Year: 2014 Edition

A frigid New Years’ Day, and I’m sitting by our front window, watching the sun set over the leafless hills that stand between the evergreen Black Forest and the vineyard-striped Rhine River Valley. A post-Christmas storm has left our town icy cold and snow-covered, so we’re enjoying these glowing pink and blue days before the rain starts again tomorrow. So from this quiet first day of 2015 comes a list of blessings from a much less quiet 2014.

  1. IMG_1156Marriage. Though we managed to squeeze in under the wire for 2013, this was truly our first year of the rich, transformative and companionable adventure of marriage. Thankful for the grace, laughter and truth learned in the context of sharing life with Timmy, and looking forward to seeing what journeys God takes us on next.
  2. Senior Girls. 2014 was the year of senior small groups, with six beloved girls graduating in June and a new (to me) group of seven staring in September. I feel honored beyond measure to share this important moment with these girls, and learn a great deal from their hopes, plans and desires to follow Christ into the coming seasons.
  3. GraduationGoodbyes. “How lucky I am to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard,” A.A. Milne wrote in Winnie the Pooh. While every June brings goodbyes here, this one was especially poignant, bringing the departure of treasured friends and long-loved students. In the end, however, I feel the bittersweet gratefulness of having people I love and miss all over the world.
  4. Risotto. Though technically something learned earlier, risotto saw its heyday in the Gaster house this year. Part meditative metaphor and part gluten-free Italian magic, this has been a solid staple, one I anticipate enjoying forever.
  5. Reading, all kinds. While some years I focus on classics, young adult recommendations, or difficult literary pieces in my free time, this was a year of intense variety. A single train ride this summer featured books by Decemberists frontman Colin Meloy (Wildwood), Office writer Mindy Kaling (Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me?) and Genuine Good Writer Isak Denison (Babette’s Feast). Though not necessarily the most focus year of reading, it has certainly been amusing.
  6. KandernGermany. Since moving here in August of 2010, this is the calendar year in which I’ve spent the most time in Germany itself. With the exception of a quick trip to Seattle in October, I’ve spent most of the year nearby, enjoying pretending to be a local during World Cup season, and savoring the conflict of the moment when Germany played (and soundly destroyed) the U.S. team. More than ever, I love this well-ordered and postcard-quaint part of the world that we’re privileged to call home.
  7. SummerSpangdahlem Air Base. Though being apart is never fun, Timmy’s service as a chaplain with the Air Force this summer took him not back to the U.S. but just a few hours north, allowing for regular communication and even a weeklong visit, where I could see him in action and meet some of the wonderful people in the community there.
  8. Family. My brother and his wife opened an espresso bar called Argonaut Cafe in Leavenworth, Washington. My sister Holly is managing a Danish bakery in Seattle. My parents spent roughly 40 days hiking through the Alps this summer. To say I’m proud is the understatement of the year.
  9. Time. Though there were certainly hectic seasons, this has also been a year of time. Time to experiment with lessons, to hike with parents, to write a novel, and to mentor new teachers at BFA. I’m thankful for this gift of time, and eager to see what God does with it in the coming year.
  10. Your Support. We continue to be overwhelmed with gratitude at the provision of support–financial, spiritual and emotional–that allows us to continue in ministry here. Thank you for how you’ve transformed our lives and the lives of the students we serve!

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